Too few people reach for SPF when it is sunny

Public encouraged to 'Save Your Skin'
  • Deborah Condon

While most people reach for their sunglasses when it is sunny in Ireland, just one in five reach for sun protection factor (SPF), a new survey has found.

According to the findings, while 72% of people are concerned about their risk of developing skin cancer when exposing their skin to the sun, just 21% reach for SPF when it is sunny here, compared to 87% who reach for their sunglasses.

Furthermore, 34% experienced sunburn during last year's heatwave as a result of not wearing any, or enough, SPF.

The survey of over 1,000 adults was released by La Roche-Posay as part of a new campaign, ‘Save Your Skin', which is run in partnership with the Irish Cancer Society (ICS). It aims to make people more aware of how to reduce their risk of skin cancer by being safe in the sun.

The findings show that among those who experienced sunburn last summer, almost 60% were aged between 18 and 24, which suggests that more focus needs to be placed on educating young people.

"People in Ireland have long had a love affair with the weather, especially good weather. The research reveals a rather worrying trend whereby the majority of people seem to be aware of the risks of UV exposure, but are failing to take the necessary action.

"As summer approaches and more people will have their skin exposed to harmful UV rays, we want to remind people about being sun smart. Ideally we need to shift behaviour towards making applying SPF all year round an instinct rather than a second thought," commented consultant dermatologist, Dr Nikki Ralph.

Also commenting on the findings, ICS chief executive, Averil Power, pointed out that non-melanoma skin cancer ‘is the most common cancer in Ireland and we have the highest reported rates in Europe'.

"That is why it is so important for everyone to be sun smart this summer by avoiding the midday sun, covering up, and wearing a minimum of SPF30 on any exposed areas of the body," she said.

The sun emits harmful UVA and UVB rays, which cause damage to, and premature ageing of, unprotected skin. UVA rays, in particular, are present all year around, while UVB rays are most prevalent during the summer months. The ICS emphasises that once UVA or UVB damage occurs, it cannot be reversed.

The ‘Save Your Skin' campaign urges people to follow these three steps:

-Seek shade when UV rays are at their strongest, which is usually between 11am and 3pm. Don't forget to check the UV Index
-Cover up by wearing a shirt with a collar and long shorts. Also wear a hat that gives shade to your face, neck and ears. Wear wraparound sunglasses and make sure they offer UV protection
-Apply sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 (SPF 50 for children) and UVA protection on exposed areas of the body. Apply 20 minutes before going outside.


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